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What is the Family Medical Leave Act?

On Behalf of | Nov 13, 2023 | Employment Law

The Family Medical Leave Act is a federal law that provides eligible employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons. It’s a crucial legislation for employees across the United States, offering necessary time off to deal with personal or family health issues without fear of losing their jobs.

As an employee, being well-informed about your rights under the FMLA can help you navigate challenging times with greater confidence and security.

Understanding the basics of FMLA

The FMLA entitles eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in 12 months for specific family and medical reasons. These reasons include:

  • Birth and care of a newborn child
  • Adoption or foster care placement of a child
  • Caring for an immediate family member with a severe health condition
  • When the employee is unable to work due to their serious health condition

FMLA also provides for military family leave, including qualifying exigency and military caregiver leave. This is applicable when a family member is on covered active duty or called to covered active-duty status.

Who is eligible for FMLA leave?

You must work for a covered employer to be eligible for FMLA leave. This includes:

  • Private-sector employers with 50 or more employees
  • Public agencies
  • Public or private elementary or secondary schools

Additionally, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, have at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12 months immediately preceding the leave and work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

How to apply for FMLA leave

If you need to take FMLA leave, you must notify your employer at least 30 days in advance if the need for leave is foreseeable. In cases of unforeseen leave, you should provide notice as soon as possible. Be prepared to provide sufficient information or a certification from a healthcare provider to substantiate your need for leave due to a severe health condition.

Job protection under FMLA

Upon return from FMLA leave, employees must be restored to their original or equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits and other employment terms and conditions. The FMLA also protects employees from retaliation by employers for exercising their rights under the Act.

Despite these clear legal protections, some employees have trouble with getting the leave they’re due under FMLA. If you are facing a complicated set of FMLA-related circumstances, don’t hesitate to seek legal guidance for clarity and support.